watchOS 6 update release date, compatibility, news and features

watchos 6
Image Credit: Apple

Apple now confirmed that watchOS 6 is the next version of the company's wearable software – and it will likely be coming to your Apple Watch by the end of 2019.

The biggest upgrade coming in the software refresh is the fact you'll have an App Store directly on your wrist. You'll be able to cycle through apps to download on your Apple Watch, rather than having to install them on your iPhone.

Update: Apple has just released the second-gen beta for watchOS 6, but it's still just limited for developers. 

Below we'll talk you through all of the other main features Apple has introduced on stage at WWDC 2019, plus a variety of details such as which watches will be compatible and when we expect it to land.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next version of Apple's smartwatch operating system
  • When is it out? It's now official, likely released in September
  • What will it cost? Nothing!

watchOS 6 release date and compatibility

As expected, watchOS 6 was unveiled at WWDC 2019, and the developer beta is available now. In fact, Apple has already released an updated beta for developers that adds in a few extra features.

Apple won't be running a public beta for this software, so if you're not a developer you'll have to wait until the official release to be able to try it out.

That official release date is set for "Fall" (that's Autumn in the UK) and we expect that to mean that we'll see the software rollout in September. That's our assumption considering how all previous versions of watchOS have been released in that month, and it'll probably coincide with iOS 13.

It will be free to download, and will be compatible with the Apple Watch 4, Apple Watch 3, Apple Watch 2 and the Apple Watch Series 1. Like watchOS 5, the original Apple Watch won't be compatible with the software.

That means if your Apple Watch has received watchOS 5, it will still receive this update too. It'll likely be the software featured on the inevitable Apple Watch 5 too.

watchOS 6 App Store

watchos 6

Image Credit: Apple

The biggest upgrade coming to your Apple Watch will be the inclusion of an App Store. Previously you've had to download apps to your iPhone in order to be able to use them on your wearable, but that's all set to change with watchOS 6.

You'll be able to search the App Store directly from your wrist using your voice, with Scribble or via Siri. It'll show you a variety of details for apps you're thinking of installing, such as screenshots on the watch's display, and you'll be able to install them there and then. 

It should mean you're able to download and install apps directly onto your wrist on devices like the LTE version of the Apple Watch 4, without having to have your iPhone with you. 

It'll also free up space on your iPhone, as you'll be able to limit the services you only use on your wrist to your Watch, rather than duplicating apps across two devices.

This will likely be a major boon for app developers too, as it'll be easier to download titles directly to your watch. Whether that means we'll see more apps on your Apple Watch... only time will tell.

watchos 6

Image Credit: Apple 

watchOS 6 will introduce at least three new apps to your wrist. The first of those is Apple Books, which will allow you to listen to audiobooks using Bluetooth headphones rather than you reading a hefty tome on your wrist.

Voice Memos will also be coming to your wrist, so you'll be able to speak into your wrist to make notes rather than whipping out your iPhone.

There's also a Calculator app coming to watchOS for the very first time. There have always been third-party options on Apple Watch, but this is the first time the official Apple application has been included.

Another new feature in the Apple Watch app will be a tool that enables you to calculate tips or your share of the bill easily.

watchOS 6 is also set to allow you to get 2-factor authentication codes through to your Apple Watch to allow for signing in to platforms on your other Apple devices easier than ever too.

watchOS 6 streaming audio

A new API is coming with watchOS 6, that will allow your Apple Watch to directly stream audio away from your iPhone.

We don't currently know what apps will include this feature, but it may allow for more audio-based apps to be introduced on the Apple Watch that will work without you having to keep your iPhone with you – think radio, podcasts or your favorite music streaming platform.

watchOS 6 hearing health

Ever worry about your hearing when you're in loud environments? watchOS 6 will debut a feature that can listen to what you're hearing and let you know if the decibel levels are getting too high.

The World Health Organization says four hours a week of more than 90 decibels can impact hearing over time. This new feature will monitor the sound in your environment and let you know when you're nearing a level that is bad for your health.

Apple has said that it won't record the exact sounds it can hear, and instead will just monitor the decibels so it won't be a concern for your privacy.

watchOS 6 watch faces

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The update is confirmed to bring new watch faces to your Apple Watch too. These are called Modular Compact, Solar Dial, California, Gradient and Numerals face, plus you can see a collection of them above.

A new complication for watch faces also allows you to monitor the volume level in a room you're in, so you'll be able to check if there's any risk of damaging your hearing.

Another update includes a feature called taptic chimes, which can be included on all watch faces. This will silently tap your wrist every hour on the hour to help you keep track of the time, and if the sound is on you’ll hear an audible chime.

watchOS 6 health

watchos 6

An example of how Activity Trends looks. Image Credit: Apple 

In terms of new health features, there's something called Activity Trends. It's a way to show you your historic fitness data, and give you a picture of how your last 90 days compares to the previous year. 

Apple says this will enable you to monitor "nine key metrics", although it wasn't specific about what those are. If your activity levels begin to fall over time, the watch will be able to give you advice on what you can do to get back on track.

watchos 6

How Cycle Tracking will look on watchOS 6. Image Credit: TechRadar

Cycle Tracking will allow women to track their menstrual cycle on their watch, and the same functionality is coming to the Health app on iPhone.

It's a big feature on products from the likes of Fitbit and Garmin, and will likely be welcomed by women around the world. It'll give you notifications when fertility windows are about to begin or your period is likely to start.

GymKit compatibility is also extending to Woodway, Octane Fitness and TRUE Fitness equipment in the near future too.